Onesie blankets helping rough sleepers to keep warm

Fiona Drumgoole and Ross Thompson

Tyneside’s rough sleepers are being kept warm this winter by blankets made out of onesies.

Dozens have been specially made by staff at The All-in-One Company in Ashington and donated to the Making Winter Warmer charity, which every Friday night takes food and clothing essentials to people sleeping on the streets.

“They’re invaluable,” said Ross Thompson from the charity. “A blanket is one of the first things our street friends ask for, particularly at this time of year. They can wrap themselves up or sit on them to keep off the cold concrete.”

Making Winter Warmer was founded two years ago by Jo burns and Kerry Lister-Pattinson started two years ago, has an organising committee of ten and a small army of volunteers who each Thursday sort donations at the charity’s borrowed warehouse in Gateshead.

It feeds about 60 people every week, providing hot drinks and food from a temporary distribution point at Newcastle’s Monument, before volunteers walk the streets looking for people who might need help.

“The generosity of the public and businesses like The All-in-One Company is fantastic. If it wasn’t for that we couldn’t do what we do,” said Ross.

The growing public support for the charity is reflected by the number of people who follow it through social media. It has, for example, 13,000 friends on Facebook.

“We have regular volunteers who come to help us. Everybody works so it’s hard to do it regularly, but a little bit at a time really helps. That’s what makes it what it is because we all want to give up our time and we’ve made some really good friends with the people we’re trying to help,” he added.

Ross – who lives in Ashington and is the security supervisor at South East Northumberland Magistrates Court in Bedlington – first became aware of the plight of rough sleepers when a friend from school appeared at court accused of stealing food.

“I hadn’t seen him for a few years. He was homeless, living in a tent on the beach and having to steal food to get something to eat. It was shocking – somebody I’d grown up with,” he said.

He got in touch with The All-in-One Company after reading about its offer of free blankets for charities. Its founder Kate Dawson said: “We’d all sat down and thought of beneficial ways to use all the larger pieces of remnant fabric we have. We’ve always given away sacks and sacks of small offcuts to schools and craft groups and thought that if we made blankets they could be put to good use.

“It’s terrible that there are so many people sleeping outside in all sorts of weather. Ross and the rest of the volunteers do an incredible job. I just hope our blankets can provide just a little bit of comfort.”

The All-in-One Company was launched in 2008 after Kate could not find suitable sleep suits for her two young children. It soon started making onesies for adults – each one designed through The All-in-One Company website by the customers themselves.
The onesie quickly became the must-have Christmas gift and The All-in-One Company has become a popular partner for advertisers and reality TV shows.

Charities should contact the company via its website